A GROUP of seven Jersey heifers selected as a Platinum Jubilee gift for Queen Elizabeth II have been ‘re-gifted’ by King Charles III to help an Island farm recover from the ‘beyond devastating’ loss of more than 100 cows from its dairy herd.
A senior figure in the Island’s dairy industry has highlighted the empathy shown by the King to the plight of Woodlands Farm in St Helier, where only a handful of the 137-strong dairy herd survived an outbreak of suspected botulism in December.
Originally earmarked to be sent to the royal herd at Windsor to acknowledge Queen Elizabeth’s 70 years on the throne, the heifers were then set to be a gift to King Charles after his accession on his mother’s death in September, before events at Woodlands later in the year prompted a change of plan.
Andrew Le Gallais, a dairy farmer and former chairman of the Jersey Milk Marketing Board, said arrangements had been helped by the King’s representative in the Island.
He said: ‘We have built a close relationship with the Lieutenant-Governor [Vice-Admiral Jerry Kyd] and he understood exactly what was involved in this process and helped us in going through the protocols – there was a lot to be gone through.
‘We have been very struck that this wasn’t a matter of the King signing a form that was put in front of him: he was aware of what had happened here in December and has shown great interest. This is a personal gift from the Monarchy and a phenomenal gesture to Woodlands Farm and to the Island herd.’
The heifers are ‘in calf’ and due to give birth later this year, with their offspring set to be recorded in the Jersey Herd Book, the dairy industry’s official register, with ‘Platinum’ added to their pedigree names to mark the links between the Sovereign and the Jersey breed in the Island. A group of younger heifers may be identified and sent to Windsor next year, Mr Le Gallais added.
With importing live animals not being permitted in Jersey, the King’s gesture has helped the industry recover from the loss of around 15% of its dairy herd through the botulism outbreak.
Mr Le Gallais said: ‘What happened at Woodlands was beyond devastating and they have shown great resilience since that time.
‘The industry has already identified around 80 heifers which will go to help them in re-stocking – it’s not a quick solution, because it’s two years [from birth] until any milk is produced, but there’s been a lot of support.’